[Disclaimer: Both Riot Games and Fanbyte are owned by the same parent company, Tencent. We don’t often, like, chill together or anything, though.]
The team behind Project L, Riot’s upcoming 2D League of Legends fighting game, just shared insights into their developmental design process while simultaneously announcing their foray into the fighter genre will be completely free-to-play and will feature Ruined King deuteragonist Illaoi as a playable character.
This development update slyly releases just before this weekend’s Evolution Championship Series (EVO), the largest annual tournament focused solely on fighting games, and heavily hints at the team’s plan to take over a huge chunk of the fighting game community. While cracking into the scene would be an ambitious fantasy for many studios, with Project L‘s free-to-play ease of convenience, their fighting game industry veteran team leaders, recognizable characters, and funding from the ever-hungry Riot, it could easily be a reality.
In the latest Project L dev diary, Executive Producer Tom Cannon says “We want you to be able to play no matter where you live, what your skill level is, or how much money you have to spend on a game” before confirming Project L will be free-to-play like its Riot Games contemporaries.
People like free games. Everyone knows this, but it’s been recently proven with WB’s MultiVersus recent free open beta which peaked at 153,433 concurrent players, the highest any fighting game on Steam has ever reached, within its first week live. Truly bonkers numbers, and since Project L is also a fighter based on beloved characters, going free-to-play is a great option to draw in people who don’t want to spend money to have fun; a demographic which, as we’ve seen from MultiVersus, is extremely large.
Project L also has the draw of its Executive Producer Tom Cannon and Technical Lead Tony Cannon, who are two of the founders of EVO itself. The duo previously worked as co-directors on Rising Thunder, the simplistic mecha fighting game that was canceled shortly after Riot purchased Radiant Entertainment back in 2016. Now Radiant Entertainment is the main Riot subsidiary working on Project L and the team seems to be carrying that same inclusivity and accessibility that made Rising Thunder so alluring.
In Riot’s extending Project L blog post, the Illaoi dev team digs deep into the design, narrative, animation, and art that goes into translating a champion from League of Legends into a recognizable, yet fresh fighting game character. It’s a candid, exciting read that sparks my mind into thinking about all of the potential fighters and combos, and I definitely recommend you give it a peek if you want to get inside the minds of the Project L development team. A standout quote reads: “Essentially, we want players to see a champion in Project L do something they’ve never seen before, and think ‘Holy shit, they did what? Of course they can do that…'”
There is still no word on when Project L will be releasing, but the Illaoi blog post announced that we’ll hear a substantial update before the end of the year. I’m a perpetual League of Legends and fighting game player who craves competition, so it feels like this game was developed specifically for me, and I’m ridiculously hyped to go silly. If they put in Zeri, I will shout the loudest outburst of joy, alarming my neighbors and shattering the windows on my whole street.
But I’m also conflicted, and can’t help but comment on the fact that Riot is squeezing its way into a multitude of genres, slowly but surely setting itself up to be the leader in each of them, and it makes me nervous. When we look at Teamfight Tactics‘ dominating the autobattler scene, the Valorant tactical shooter trying to catch up to CS:GO, the card game Legends of Runeterra, League of Legends outshining Dota 2, and their upcoming MMORPG that’s pulling talent from across games, it all starts to add up. Big companies with a monopoly on an industry is bad for everyone but the company in question. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.